2 killed, 1 injured as helicopter crashes, breaks apart in downtown of Idaho town

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

2 killed when copter crashes in Idaho downtown

BOISE, Idaho — A helicopter chartered by the Department of Fish and Game plunged into a travel trailer and crashed Tuesday on a downtown street in the small town of Kamiah, killing two people and injuring another onboard, authorities said.

Two agency biologists were onboard conducting fisheries surveys, said Robert Hand of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. He did not elaborate.

No injuries were reported on the ground.

Witness Jim Emmert said he was at home when he heard loud rhythmic banging, “like a rock-crusher, but with metal parts.”

He ran to his deck of his home and realized the noise was coming from the helicopter heading east through Clearwater Valley.

“The thing was sounding like there was some serious metal destruction going on,” Emmert said. “It was maybe 800 feet off the valley floor, and then it kind of hesitated in its forward momentum before sliding backward.”

The helicopter lost a few hundred feet of altitude and flipped upside down, with its rotors toward the ground, before the pilot briefly managed to get it upright and level again.

“It started sliding to the left and downward and going down too rapidly,” Emmert said. “He was headed toward some power lines, and I perceived that he banked it toward the right to avoid them.”

The helicopter then collided with a travel trailer on the ground.

“I saw white parts coming off of it,” Emmert said. “It made a crumpled sound — like paper being crumpled — and then a loud crash and an explosion. And then nothing.”

Kamiah resident Mick Landmark said the helicopter looked like it clipped the eaves of a U.S. Forest Service-owned house before colliding with the trailer about a block from his downtown insurance office.

Two men and a woman were inside the aircraft, Landmark said. Their names were not immediately released by authorities.

Emergency crews performed CPR on two of them before pronouncing them dead, he said. The third person was taken by ambulance to a hospital.

The helicopter belonged to a Clarkston, Wash., company that contracts services to Idaho Fish and Game, state officials said.

The Lewis County sheriff’s office was investigating the crash in north-central Idaho.

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